RIO DE JANEIRO, Nov 9, (Pakistan Point News - APP - 09th Nov, 2016 ) - The Brazilian doctor who first linked the Zika virus to brain damage in babies warns that rich countries are not safe from the disease, urging them to increase research funding. Obstetrician Adriana Melo was the first person to make the connection between an outbreak of Zika in Brazil and a surge in babies born with microcephaly, or abnormally small heads. Melo, who works at the heart of the outbreak in the northeast Brazilian city of Campina Grande, sent her first sample of amniotic fluid in for Zika tests on November 10, 2015.
The positive result -- the first of many for mothers whose babies had the debilitating neurological condition -- sparked a chain reaction of alarm. It culminated in February, when the World Health Organization declared an international public health emergency over the link between Zika and microcephaly. Melo said the world has not done enough since then to understand and fight this "neglected" disease. She urged wealthy countries to wake up to recent findings that Zika, which is typically spread by tropical mosquitoes, can also be transmitted through other bodily fluids.
"We know there are other transmission vectors and that (Zika) can break out anywhere, in any country," she told AFP in an interview in Rio de Janeiro, on the sidelines of an international conference on the disease. "It's a disease that doesn't interest rich countries much because they think it won't reach them. But it's a risk to underestimate this virus. I am very afraid of viruses," she said. Melo called for more clinical studies of Zika, which has been linked not only to microcephaly in babies but also a potentially deadly neurological disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome in adults. There is currently no treatment or vaccine for the virus, whose mild, flu-like symptoms belie its potentially devastating side effects.